5G is the fifth generation mobile telecoms technology, which promises exponentially faster download speeds and data-sharing capabilities.
The biggest difference between 5G and its predecessor generations is the opportunity to develop the ‘Internet of Things’ (IOT) on a significant scale. This remains the real economic and social ‘game changer’ that can potentially revolutionise data-driven industries and infrastructure management. This is because it’ll be possible to have many more devices working, reliably, securely and uninterrupted in the same geographic area.
The 5G evolution will present multiple new business models and connectivity opportunities that potentially can be monetised. It is this technology emergence that Shropshire Council is eager to explore, evaluate and exploit (where there is a business case).
Working with the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership, the Department for Digital Culture Media & Sport, UK5G, 5G pilot projects (which include the West Midlands Combined Authority or WMCA), Shropshire Council will undertake a review of 5G technology to assess the potential opportunities for Shropshire communities and businesses, from a social & economic perspective.
In last year’s Future Telecommunications Infrastructure Review (FTIR), the Government committed to increase access to spectrum for the innovation of 5G networks and services. As part of this commitment, the Government invested funding into test beds and trials across specific sites and industries in the UK. The closest test bed was at Harper Adams University in Newport where a project called ‘Rural First’ specifically tested ‘agri-tech’ equipment within a restrictive operational zone of one hectare. Details of this project are in the public domain and can be found on the Rural First website.
To the Council’s knowledge there are no current 5G Mobile Network Operator (MNO) masts or antennas in operational use in the Shropshire Council area.
In May 2019, EE launched their 5G network in a number of cities. This will soon be followed by other MNOs launching their own networks in direct competition to EE. We expect 5G to remain a wholly commercial model for the foreseeable future. It will be driven by the MNO marketplace and consumer demands for new smart phone technology, speed increases and higher data consumption. This consumer model and the need for MNOs to invest in new frequency licences and equipment will focus MNO investment decisions in areas with high population density in urban landscapes. It is unlikely that MNOs will invest in 5G commercially in Shropshire until 2021/22 at the earliest.
It is important to note that Shropshire Council has no direct responsibility for the MNO marketplace.
A number of people have recently contacted Shropshire Council expressing concerns about the potential health impacts of 5G. Shropshire Council, along with all other Local Authorities, is not responsible for setting emission safety levels for mobile phone networks. Shropshire Council has neither the expertise nor the remit to participate in matters concerning biological or health research.
Lee Chapman, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for organisational transformation and digital infrastructure, said: “The West Midlands Combined Authority – of which Shropshire Council is a non-constituent member – is working with UK5G, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, and Public Health England in assessing any potential health concerns. They publish a regularly-updated Review* of current information on the effects of wireless communications on health and the environment and we will continue to monitor this Review to ensure that we are aware of the latest information and advice.
“In addition, as part of their 5G ‘Urban Connected Communities’ Pilot in Birmingham, the WMCA has invited Shropshire Council to join a new working group that will share thinking and communications in relation to all things 5G, including the emerging health concerns.”
* The Review was last updated in March 2019 and can be found at the following web address: https://uk5g.org/discover/research/5g-health-and-environmental-effects/
The Review states that: “Over recent years there has been a huge expansion in the use of all forms of wireless communications ranging from short range Bluetooth to wide area mobile connectivity. This rapid growth has been managed safely through the industry conforming to international health standards which are independently laid down and are based upon a huge amount of research carried out over the last 50 years (the ICNIRP guidelines).”
“Public Health England and other organisations have concluded there is no convincing evidence that human exposure of radio waves below these ICNIRP guideline levels causes health effects in either adults or children.”
Public Health England (PHE) also publishes some regularly-updated guidance into ‘Mobile phone base stations: radio waves and health’.